To Seek Silence

Silence is not the absence of sound but the absence of noise. Noise is more than the presence of undesired sound.

For the Seeker, Silence is indeed the absence of unwanted acoustic vibration but equally importantly, Silence is a life in which the Ten Thousand Things of the Tao have been recognized as mere noise. And disregarded in the search for meaning.

The noise a seeker avoids is similar to the random fluctuation of data which, in the scientific endeavor, obscure and mask the “signal”.

No statistician, I can nonetheless describe noise in layman’s terms after decades of studying financial markets looking for “signals” in the noise.

In the markets, data at its purest consists of the daily Open, High, Low and Closing prices of an instrument, together with the volume traded for the day. In a wider context, financial data consists of a myriad of other factors, many of which can be totally ignored.

When picking investments, you can and should ignore the vast majority of available data. It is just meaningless noise. The signal pointing to successful investing depends on filtering out the endless nonsense which most punters consider important. Hence the quantitative investor will not bother with the news and he very probably won’t read a company’s financials. The signal is in the price and most of the rest of the detail is irrelevant.

And so in life. Most of it is meaningless noise which you must filter out if you seek the absolute.

Leave the human anthill be. See it for what it is. Pointless, unnecessary and destructive workings of the reptilian brain.

The endless search for “stuff” to satisfy desires which can never be sated.

Most humans are, in a sense, barely more sentient than the birds and the bees. No more “aware” than the ants who blindly build the anthill. They work and build, they kill and destroy, they dominate and subjugate. If asked “why?” most would be puzzled by the question. Awareness is not a widely distributed human characteristic.

The search for silence is not foremost among human preoccupations, although it should be.

I have headed this post with a picture of my beloved Book of Common Prayer which I took in an equally loved local church, where I am wont to sit in contemplation several times a week, as part of my daily wanderings. These days I must sit in the sun in the churchyard and do without the prayer book. Equally pleasant. Equally contemplative – your companions have certainly found silence.

I am not a Christian. I happen to love the prayer book for the beauty of its language and the good sense of the Psalms. I happen to love English churches for the perfection of their architecture and the deep silence and peace they provide.

But I am just as happy to sit awhile in a Buddhist temple and often used to when I lived in Japan.

Dogma is the enemy of those who seek to discover the source, the signal, the meaning. But the thoughts of Rumi, Meister Eckhart and the many, many others I have read over the years? That is a very different matter. Such people have buried themselves deep in the silence. They have touched the face of the Absolute. They have seen Reality. And their descriptions of what they have found are remarkably similar be they Sufi, Jew, Christian or Buddhist. Or indeed any of the other half decent creeds out there.

I have found a depth of Silence recently which I have all too rarely achieved in the past. I have been six or eight weeks buried in the countryside of East Kent which I have always loved. No trips to the Big Smoke. No shops, no barbers, no doctors, no contact. Well, other than the odd sneaky visit to chat to my little sister over the garden wall. When my hyper -vigilant wife is not looking. Self isolation is taken to great extremes in our little three person family unit.

I feel that I have reached a different stage in life. A firmer understanding of what and why and all those tiresome questions which have so long beset me.

I do not despise the world, I just do not want anything to do with the way it normally works or the way so many people customarily think or behave. I do not say that they are right or wrong – just different and not as I would have it.

So, acceptance. Perhaps that is they key which has emerged from the silence. Equanimity. Peace. And problems of course do not end. Difficulties are always with us. But again, acceptance rather than battling against reality is what counts.

Have I seen the face of god? Have I achieved union with what is? Omniscience perhaps?

No. No to all of that. But I have seen a place of peace and silence in the middle of turmoil. An eye in the center of the storm. And that is where I hope to stay.

Seek the Silence.

7 Comments

  1. I would add and then also Innoway kind of Counter:

    Silence is not merely an absence of noise or vibration, but is the clarity that comes when thoughts themselves don’t dominate. Because I would suggest that it is not to so much that there is some sort of acoustic noise that is affecting me in any particular way, but it is the inability to distinguish between things, between things that are affecting me and things that are indeed me as being. The thing that is me being has no exteriorty or interiority, but the thoughtful distinction is indeed the noise which looks to cause and effects.

    I would offer that it is this kind of ceasing of noise of which the acoustic interference is but an sort of analogy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah. Didn’t read close enough: The 10,000 things.

    But, it is not just silence for the sake of silence and then come back into the noise, but it is indeed the silence which allows us to here, to hear ourselves in the world as the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely piece.
    “The ten thousand things” rang a bell. A few days ago, I finished reading Alan Watts’ “Tao, the Watercourse Way,” and remembered seeing it there. Here is the quote from Lao-tzu:

    The un-named is heaven and earth’s origin;
    Naming in the mother of ten thousand things.
    Whenever there is no desire (or, intention),
    one beholds the mystery;
    Whenever there is desire, one beholds the manifestations.
    These two have the same point of departure, but differ (because of) the naming.
    Their identity is ‘hsüan’–
    ‘hsüan’ beyond ‘hsüan’, all mystery’s gate.”

    Britannnica: Hsüan, (Chinese: “dark,” or “mysterious”), or xuan, … connotes a hidden or occult dimension to some aspect of experience or reality. First used metaphysically in the Tao-te ching…

    Nice to know you and I both have “a hyper-vigilant wife.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Silence clearly is much more about what is NOT heard as opposed to being simply the “absence of noise,” and you express this notion ably here. Some years ago, as an avid tent camper in some of the most beautiful natural settings in the forests and mountains along the Eastern Corrider in the United States, I often marveled at how the natural world could present me in the morning hours with a very particular kind of silence:

    “There was a profound silence at most every moment, with the exception of the usual background murmur of nature, which I had come to accept as silence…I drifted along in that almost utter silence of nature.”

    I also am fond of the opening line of the poem, “Desiderata,” by Max Ehrmann

    “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

    It is notable that not everyone perceives silence as advantageous in every case, and even have an aversion to the “absence of noise.”

    I have enjoyed the writings of Wayne Dyer for some time now, and subscribe to this sentiment he expressed about silence:

    “Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Words come out of the void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.” – Wayne Dyer

    It would seem that your idea that peace and equanimity are born of silence, may be the key to creativity as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I imagine, I can well imagine that silence of any sort is not welcomed by everybody. I know just what you mean about the sound of nature. I have been sitting in the garden listening to birdsong and it the very opposite to “noise” as I understand the word. As Ehrmann seems to hint, you can still find peace amidst physical noise – on the London buses for instance – if you remain placid. Quiet can be an inner quality, but I still prefer “nature quiet” or indeed complete silence. I suppose that the universe itself came out of silence – I can imagine a great deal of noise during the singularity. After being a different story! Words come out of the void – ah…the Logos…How I love that concept.

      Liked by 1 person

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